Maine Student Project Wins Global Call to Action Challenge, Sponsored by The Pearson Foundation and PeaceJam

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Winning Team Meets Nobel Peace Laureate Oscar Arias at Awards Ceremony

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An organic garden and nutrition project developed by students at Mount View High School in central Maine has been named the winner of the 2010 Global Call to Action Challenge. On Nov. 15, the winning group of students attended the annual PeaceJam Hero Awards Luncheon in Denver, Colorado, where they met with Nobel Peace Laureate and former President of Costa Rica, Oscar Arias.

Sponsored by PeaceJam and the Pearson Foundation, The Global Call to Action Challenge is part of an international youth movement headed by ten Nobel Peace Laureates including President Arias, the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. To enter the Challenge, student groups first had to create a successful service project in one of ten areas outlined by the Nobel Laureates. They then had to document their work in writing or digital video. The five-minute winning video, "History of Mount View Peace Jam," tells the story of the Maine students' four-year effort to fight poverty and provide their community with healthy, locally-grown food.

While in Denver, the Maine students had a working session with the Nobel Prize winner to discuss strategies for continuing and expanding their project. In the spring of 2011, another Nobel Peace Laureate will visit Mount View High School to review the students' progress. In addition, the students will work with professional filmmakers and Pearson Foundation representatives to create a record of their achievements with the aim of inspiring other young people to work on similar projects.

The organic garden project was started by a group of Mount View students in 2006 as a way to provide fresh, local organic produce to two area food banks, the Belfast Food Pantry and the Knox Food Pantry. As the harvest from their garden grew, the students began providing fresh produce to the Mount View School Nutrition Program.

In the spring of 2008, as a new Mount View High School complex was under construction, the PeaceJam students held meetings with school officials and created a plan for onsite organic gardens specifically designed to supplement the school nutrition program. More than 100 students participated in the creation and maintenance of the gardens, giving them the practical skills to grow their own vegetables at home and reduce their own family's overall food costs.

Mount View High School is the centralized high school for 11 rural Maine towns. In the 2009-10 school year 80% of the district population qualified for free and reduced lunch. Waldo County is considered one of the most economically depressed areas in the state with almost 40% of the children living at or below the federal poverty level.

These onsite gardens now save the school $1,700 a year, allowing it to purchase more locally grown produce. Today, 30% of the food in the school lunch program comes from local farms. Since their project began, participation in the school lunch program has increased by more than 20%. In addition, the students organized a waste sorting program in the school cafeteria that has reduced food and other waste by over 70 percent.

"I have had the pleasure of working with the Mount View PeaceJammers for the past four years," said Barry Felson, Executive Director of NextGen Leaders, the PeaceJam Northeast affiliate, "and have watched both the project and the youth blossom. They have impressed me since day one, and continue to demonstrate what a committed group of youth can accomplish. I'm delighted that they are receiving this honor -- they really deserve it."

"This is the second year that Pearson has been proud to sponsor the Global Call to Action Challenge," said Mark Nieker, President, the Pearson Foundation. "These young people are making a tremendously positive impact in their communities. Their films as spreading the world, demonstrating the power of individual action, and--in the process--helping to inspire others to do the same."

About The PeaceJam Foundation
PeaceJam is an international education program built around leading Nobel Peace Laureates who work personally with youth to pass on the spirit, skills, and wisdom they embody. The goal of PeaceJam is to inspire a new generation of peacemakers who will transform their local communities, themselves, and the world. Since its launch in 1996, more than 600,000 youth have participated in the PeaceJam program creating and implementing almost one million service projects. Over 150 PeaceJam youth events have taken place in over 10 different countries throughout the world.

About The Pearson Foundation
The Pearson Foundation is the lead sponsor of the Global Call to Action Challenge and is the philanthropic arm of Pearson plc, one of the world's leading media and education companies. The Pearson Foundation extends Pearson's commitment to education by partnering with leading nonprofit, civic, and business organizations to provide financial, organizational, and publishing assistance across the globe. For more information on the Pearson Foundation, please visit http://www.pearsonfoundation.org.

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Adam Ray
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